Social Work Degrees, Schools, and Careers in Virginia

Considering Virginia is one of the 15 most populous states in the country and is home to a whole raft of excellent postsecondary education options, it is somewhat shocking to see that the Commonwealth has just 17 accredited social work degree programs within its borders according to the Council on Social Work Education. Perhaps even more disappointing is that only four of those programs are Masters of Social Work (MSW) degree programs which lead to clinical licensure and the state's flagship university, the University of Virginia, is nowhere to be found on the list. The good news is that all four of the schools that do offer MSW programs have programs that are ranked in the Top 200 in the country. There is also a good range of the types and sizes of universities and schools offering these degrees.

For a state that only offers four different programs to become a clinical social worker, it is somewhat disheartening to then see that, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the professional social work community is pretty large in Virginia. As of May 2014, the state was home to roughly 14,000 professional social workers. More than 60 percent of those social workers are child, family, and school social workers (8,050) but there are also approximately 2,370 healthcare social workers, 3,400 substance abuse social workers and 550 specialty social workers. Also, Virginia may have a relatively low cost of living in most parts of the state, but its compensation for social workers still leaves something to be desired where annual average salary ranges between $47,730 for substance abuse social workers and $58,970 for specialty social workers.

The Virginia Board of Social Work is in responsible of licensing social workers in the state and it approves two levels of licensure. The licenses are:

Licensed Social Worker (LSW)

Applicants for this license must earn at least a BSW degree from an accredited program. Applicants are also required to complete 3,000 hours of supervised work experience and 1,500 of those hours must be spent working with individuals. The final step is to pass the exam issued by the Association of State Social Work Boards.


Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

Applicants must first earn a MSW from an accredited program and then they must complete 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience. Virginia LCSW applicants are required to complete 3,000 hours of work experience within two to four years; 100 of these hours must include face-to-face supervision. Also, half of this work experience must be individual social work.

Virginia Social Work Degrees, Schools, and Careers

The top-ranked school of social work in Virginia belongs to the Virginia Commonwealth University according to U.S. World News & Report. It is ranked No. 11 in the country, has been accredited since 1919 and offers opportunities for multiple concentrations, dual degrees and certificates. Next on the list is George Mason University which is ranked No. 66 in the country. It has been accredited since just 2002 but has already risen up the ranks and offers concentrations in community development and clinical practice as well as a certificate in gerontology.

Norfolk State University is ranked No. 148 in the country for social work and it offers the most concentrations of any school in the state and has been accredited since 1975. The last school on the list is Radford University, which has been accredited since 1996 and offers concentrations in clinical practice, community development and mental health as well as certificates in addictions and school social work. All of those schools offer undergraduate degree programs as well, but there are other schools in the state that only offer BSW degree programs. They include Longwood University in Farmville, James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia State University in Petersburg and a few more.

Online Social Work Schools in Virginia

The one school that does offer an accredited online social work degree is the Virginia Commonwealth University except the program isn't entirely online. Instead it is a structured part-time distance education program for clinical concentration.

Luckily, there are programs around the country that offer online social work degrees as well. Western New Mexico University offers a full-time online BSW option with very few in-person and on-campus requirements and Humboldt State University is the other online BSW degree provider that is accredited. Students looking for online MSW programs have more options because schools like University of Buffalo, the University of New England, Southern New Hampshire University and Columbia University all offer online MSW programs that do not have stringent on-campus requirements for any part of the program.

Career Opportunities for Social Workers in Virginia

The largest employers of social workers in the state of Virginia are the local, state and federal government. For example, the Department of Social Services is looking for a behavioral specialist with social work experience. The Fairfax County government is looking for a human services coordinator with the same kind of experience. The county of Henrico's Department of Mental Health needs at least one clinician currently and Prince William County needs a mental health social worker too. There are also a number of hospitals and healthcare organizations looking for social workers such as the KidsPeace in Chesterfield, Western State Hospital in Staunton, The Madeline Centre, Inc. in Lynchburg and Kissito Healthcare in Lynchburg. The Virginia chapter of the National Association of Social Workers has job listings on its website that are worth exploring.

For more information about the process of becoming a social worker in Virginia, visit our page on Virginia social worker license requirements.

Child, Family, and School Social Workers Salary in Virginia

United States$27,800$34,230$43,250$56,740$75,140
Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford, VA$25,670$29,600$34,980$41,300$47,740
Charlottesville, VA$28,750$34,610$43,170$52,190$60,730
Danville, VA$31,110$33,920$38,170$44,800$49,520
Harrisonburg, VA$27,200$40,770$52,320$60,210$69,450
Lynchburg, VA$27,280$31,520$35,730$42,200$54,870
Richmond, VA$30,050$34,830$42,220$49,250$59,520
Roanoke, VA$29,080$33,350$37,910$46,590$57,160
Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC$32,880$37,220$43,660$50,750$62,650
Winchester, VA-WV$26,970$31,550$37,270$46,970$56,540

Table data taken from 2016 BLS (

Healthcare Social Workers Salary in Virginia

United States$32,750$41,620$53,760$65,860$80,020
Charlottesville, VA$32,770$37,180$48,730$70,760$84,620
Harrisonburg, VA$39,750$44,460$52,270$62,270$74,950
Lynchburg, VA$32,160$37,820$49,820$59,290$68,370
Richmond, VA$35,290$41,430$47,770$58,880$70,220
Roanoke, VA$33,390$39,620$45,890$54,970$66,380
Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC$35,160$41,820$50,760$62,690$72,910
Winchester, VA-WV$26,900$30,220$43,830$56,460$71,080

Table data taken from 2016 BLS (

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers Salary in Virginia

United States$26,730$33,240$42,700$56,610$74,650
Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford, VA$32,220$37,090$45,300$55,800$63,570
Charlottesville, VA$32,120$34,660$39,000$46,960$55,460
Harrisonburg, VA$32,450$37,920$47,040$63,070$79,570
Lynchburg, VA$29,560$35,570$41,700$45,840$48,330
Richmond, VA$31,630$39,670$44,670$51,640$61,620
Roanoke, VA$32,300$35,690$42,320$49,840$58,850
Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC$30,360$36,070$43,870$53,820$71,960
Winchester, VA-WV$23,330$40,090$44,940$49,830$58,910

Table data taken from 2016 BLS (

Featured Virginia Schools with Social Work Degree Programs